The United States Army and Navy will momentarily stop using DJI drones due to a variety of operational risks and “cyber vulnerabilities” that the Army Research Laboratory (ARL) associated with such equipment, according to a leaked memo dated August 2 that made its way online last Friday. The ARL reportedly made its conclusion on the matter at some point in July and has now ordered all personnel to cease using any products and services from the Shenzhen, China-based original equipment manufacturer (OEM). Likewise, Pentagon directed the members of the U.S. Army and Navy to uninstall any DJI apps from their devices, remove all storage media and batteries powering their DJI aircraft, and secure the drones while waiting for further orders. A representative of the U.S. Army later confirmed the legitimacy of the internal directive but didn’t clarify on the matter, stating that officials are still in the process of reviewing related guidance.
DJI Public Relations Manager Michael Perry revealed that the company wasn’t contacted by the competent officials in regards to the decision, stating that the drone manufacturer is “surprised and disappointed” by the latest turn of events. In a statement provided to sUAS News following the leak of the memo, Mr. Perry said that the firm is still ready to collaborate with any organization that may have concerns regarding its equipment, adding that DJI will contact Pentagon directly in an effort to find out the specifics regarding its decision. A number of security experts previously raised concerns regarding the use of foreign drones by federal agencies, noting how their data gathering practices may pose a serious vulnerability to U.S. agencies. The contents of the newly revealed memo imply that DJI’s drones may have been banned precisely for that reason, though it remains to be seen whether the situation is clarified in the coming weeks.
The U.S. government recently made another move to restrict the use of foreign offerings by federal agencies, with the General Services Administration removing Russian company Kaspersky Labs from its list of approved vendors that are eligible for a number of federal supply contracts related to IT solutions.